In a very democratic fashion, Google announced partnership with most of the major online music services yesterday, to allow music searchers to “find and discover” music. Check out my colleague Mark Mulligan’s post on Google’s relevance to digital music from last week. The note worthy point about Google's execution is how carefully it nudges searchers to buy music and not just stream it for free. The two main partners, Lala and iLike, that are getting premium placement by the play button, allow only limited streaming of the song. iLike lets you stream only some songs full length for the first time. After that users can only listen to 30 second sample of the song or buy an MP3. Lala also allows one free listen per song and then offers 10 cent Web singles or full MP3s.
The emphasis on search to buy and not search to stream free ad-supported songs is well placed. Music industry needs a viable alternative to iTunes, especially in the light of slowing iPod sales which have been the main driver of a la carte downloads. If anyone can pull that off its Google. Plus, the ad-supported streaming model is yet unproven. Youtube being the case in point.
Yahoo has had a similar partnership with Rhapsody for streaming but converting listeners to a la carte buyers is easier to do than converting them to subscribers. Lala’s 10 cent Web single is a great value proposition especially if their iPhone app is approved. iPhone users can then have a cloud-based music experience by spending only 10 cents on the song they like. Lala’s biggest hurdle now is getting those Google searchers to register and provide their credit card information.